Combating the Societal Disease of Our Time

Norman Lear is credited with saying "Short-term thinking is the societal disease of our time." The corporate world has been sick with this disease for a long time and it is clear the disease has spread to other bodies in life: politics, entertainment and even the church. Perhaps you have seen the ramifications of being sick with this disease? We are feverishly addicted to the quarterly reports. We check the and and down of the sock market daily. We look to medication that can claims to change our lives thirty days. Content longer than three minutes is too long

We break up writing so to order lower the pressure of committing to read an entire paragraph. 

Photo by  William Iven  on  Unsplash

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Organizations infected with short-termism infect the members of that organization. Short-termism then spreads and the epidemic is upon us. We know the cure to break the fever, but ain't nobody have time for that.

Rather than prescribing new practices such as breathing or meditation, rather I offer up something that was recently taught to me. I cannot recall where it came from nor the more articulate way it is described, but it is the idea that we are only 10 people away from Jesus. 

The idea is that your life is really about 200 years rather than just the 70ish we think of. How do you get to impact 200 years?  Simply add three numbers.

  • The age of oldest person who knew you were born +
  • The number of years you live +
  • The death age of the youngest person who knew you when you die

This simple equation of impact means that the life impact of Jesus is not 2000 years away but only ten people away.

Short termism can be addressed by shifting how we think about the world. The monthly, quarterly or even annual reports are too short term. The Spirit of God has a different scale. Our little short term reports would be laughable if they were not so damaging to our bodies. 

Uncomfortable or distracted in prayer? You may be doing it right.

Photo by  Andrew Neel  on  Unsplash

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Often prayer is taught in a way that gives the impression that some have the gift of prayer and others don't. We are disappointed when we are distracted in prayer and so we give up the practice. We beat ourselves up when we are not at ease with "praying from our hearts" because we are told that praying from our hearts should come naturally.

It may be helpful to remember that within Christian spiritual practices being uncomfortable or distracted in prayer may indicate you are on a good track. 

When we are uncomfortable in prayer it is because we know prayer is a vulnerable act. And being vulnerable is often uncomfortable for us. As such, if you are uncomfortable with the practice of praying it may mean that you are finally abandoning the false facade and expressing vulnerability. 

Additionally, when we are distracted in prayer is means we have allowed something else to take center stage in our hearts and minds. As such, we have a chance to return to God as the center. This returning, also called repenting, is the very type of prayer that Jesus elevated in places such as Luke 18. Just as there is great rejoicing when one who is lost is found, so too there is great rejoicing when we return to God at the center or our prayer. 

So if you are uncomfortable or distracted in your prayer life, the good news is you may very well be doing it right. 

Getting Distracted in Prayer? Rejoice.

There is a story that I came across some many years ago and for the life of me I cannot locate the source. (If you know where this is from I would love to know!) The gist of the story is:

A student was frustrated that he was getting distracted in his prayer and meditation. He went to the teacher and expressed what he saw to be a problem. The teacher, after seeing the distress in her student said to be thankful for the distractions. She then saw a shock come over her student and she went on to explain, "each distraction is an opportunity to return to the heart of God." 

The distractions in prayer and meditation are going to happen. If we cannot return (repent) to a simple prayer or moment of silence, then we are going to have a difficult time returning (repenting) to God or neighbor when we really screw up. The distractions are an opportunity to practice returning when the stakes are really low. 

The Only Reason Questions Are Not Good

Most of the time I support asking questions. Questions are helpful to not only broaden understanding and bring clarity; but also to build relationships. When you encounter a curious person asking you about your life, chances are you will find the person asking you about your life to be a person who makes you feel good. And we all want to be around people who make us fell good. Questions are helpful in so many ways that oftentimes, we overlook one way that questions are not good:

The only reason questions are not good is when questions justify non-action.

When getting ready for the day or at bedtime, children will ask all sorts of questions in an attempt to delay action. It is cute when they are asking questions about what is going to happen later that day or when they ask questions about the story that was just read; however it is also a subtle delaying action. 

Asking questions as a way to delay action is nefarious in that the one asking the questions is able to claim that they are "only asking questions."  Since we put such a high value on questions, we might feel like we are wrong to stop the questions in order to induce action.

I have witnessed people who will continually ask questions of themselves to the point of non-action (AKA paralysis by analysis). This sort of question to non-action pattern is also a bit tricky to internally address. It feels like you are doing something by asking the questions. Only you know if you are really just delaying actions you don't want to take. 

The reality is, questions are very good, but they are abused when employed to justify non-action.